Harvey Nash tackles gender imbalance in Singapore's board rooms

Harvey Nash launches Singapore chapter of the Inspire network to drive a step-change for future female leaders

Singapore, March 11 2016 - The Harvey Nash Inspire network has been launched in Singapore to bring together female leaders to contribute ideas and best practice, with the aim of promoting more women on boards.

Inspire is Harvey Nash's business network of board-level women, launched in 2008, which now has over 5,000 members across Europe, the U.S. and Asia Pacific. The cross-industry network aims to enable members to share knowledge and hear from business leaders, providing a forum for support and career guidance.

At the inaugural Singapore event in March, hosted at Flutes, The National Museum of Singapore, more than 50 senior female leaders from across the region came together to celebrate the launch. Representing a range of sectors - from FMCG, Banking, Technology and Education - guests discussed pressing issues in their industries and shared ideas on how we can encourage more women to become board-ready, plus actions that can be put in place to engage men in the gender diversity discussion. Inspire Singapore opened its doors to a few very special guests, in the form of a number of male champions of change from companies such as IBM.

The keynote speaker Ms. Swee Lian Teo, iNED of AIA Group, Singapore Telecommunications and NED of Avanda Investment Management, shared her experiences from her career to date, as well as her personal views on what women can do to prepare themselves for the responsibilities of the boardroom. Ms. Teo highlighted that everyone has the ability to sit on a board - it just takes confidence and drive.

"In Singapore we see a vast number of exceptional female leaders," said Richard Goddard, Managing Director, Harvey Nash Executive Search, South East Asia. "The majority of senior male and female board directors deem judging candidates solely on merit and providing equal opportunities, remains the best way forward in tackling the historic boardroom gender imbalance. However, as executive search professionals we know there is a talent bottleneck in the middle to senior layers of management - high performing, qualified women are simply not being offered the chance to pursue a career on the board. This is an important issue we aim to address through the work of Inspire."

The debate surrounding the changes that can be made to ensure more women reach board level positions was in full swing at the Inspire event, with many guests sharing their thoughts with the on-site film crew*.

Members of the Inspire network also took part in a survey in advance of the event. Key findings from the Singapore Inspire Survey 2016 include: 

  • Progress has slowed - current lack of female representation on Singaporean boards 78% of respondents have under 25% of their board seats held by women
    • 87% expect that position to stay the same in the coming year, although 13% expect an increase
    • The vast majority (69%) agree that board-level diversity progress has slowed in APAC
    • Attributed to a lack of buy-in by senior management, coupled with a lack of opportunities for women to progress
  • Diversity is not recognised as a priority
    • 69% of respondents agreed that diversity is not seen as a business priority
    • 53% highlighted that there isn't enough buy in from top management
    • Attributed to issues such as a lack of understanding of the business case, unconscious bias within organisations and there being too many other business priorities
  • Buy-in from senior management is essential
    • The majority of respondents (38%) highlighted the involvement of the CEO / Head of Business as the main driver of the focus on diversity
  • Need for more male champions of change
    • Actions that were suggested to engage more senior men in the issue include; increased education about the business case of boardroom diversity, setting diversity related KPIs and engaging the wives and daughters of senior business leaders.

    "The Inspire network brings together board leaders from across industries to share knowledge and expertise, resulting in better business and serving to drive the gender diversity agenda forward.

    Our Inspire events are always highly inspirational and positive, and the launch of our Singapore chapter was no exception," said Kirti Lad, Director at Harvey Nash Asia Pacific and Leader of the regional Inspire network. "As a platform for change, there is no better forum, as evidenced by the work of Inspire in other markets. We are committed to making a change, to encourage more women to put themselves forward for board positions, and to ensure companies offer their full support to female leaders within their workforce.

    "The gender conversation has moved on and in Asia Pacific we recognise that the key to progress is engagement. Our latest Inspire survey demonstrates the value and importance of diversity being recognised as a business priority and the importance of male champions of change in inspiring others to take action on this issue."

    The Inspire network is planning a series of event across the APAC region in 2016. For more information, please contact info@harveynash.hk.


    About Inspire:

    Inspire is Harvey Nash's executive business network of board-level women. Launched in 2008 with the aim of promoting female leadership, the network has over 5,000 members across Europe, the U.S. and Asia Pacific. The cross-industry network aims to enable members to contribute ideas, share knowledge and best practice and hear from senior business leaders, providing a forum for support and career guidance. Inspire facilitates innovation, strategy and learning for professional and personal development. The Asia Pacific Inspire network specifically addresses issues and challenges facing senior women in our diverse, complex and evolving region.

    For more information, please visit: www.harveynash.com/inspire/.